ISLE BE SEEING YOU
By EVAN GROSSMAN
Game 7: Maple Leafs 4 - Islanders 2
Toronto Wins Series 4-3
May 1, 2002 -- TORONTO - The Islanders' magical ride came to an
unceremonious end last night at the hands of the Maple Leafs, this
blood-and-guts series concluding with a Game 7 loss that will sting
until they meet for training camp in September.
The Islanders fought to the very end, until they lined up to shake
hands and the scoreboard read "Leafs 4, Islanders 2." And the Isles'
first playoffs in eight years were done just like that.
"It hurts right now," coach Peter Laviolette said after losing the
best-of-seven series, 4-3.
Laviolette said he didn't know what he was going to say to his team.
He did say that he expected to win and thought he would be telling
them what time practice was today. Instead, today will be the dreaded
break-up day, when the Isles disband for the summer and go their
separate ways after having come so painfully close to advancing.
There were times in the series when the Islanders were forced to dig
deeper than many thought they could. They watched their captain be
carted off the Air Canada Centre ice and later learned that he won't
be able to skate until Christmas. They watched Kenny Jonsson - who
had come to personify the Islanders' revival after six years of
torture - get knocked out of Game 5, and they watched their rivals
over the last week scurry off to their locker room last night, where
a brief celebration waited.
"It's tough when you lose, to shake hands. They're going off the ice
to party," Chris Osgood said. "I think both teams respected each
other and how hard they worked this series."
They did shake, and there were light taps on the shoulders and
helmets between opponents after the Islanders started off the game
slowly but finished the series with nothing held back, desperately
trying to tie the game in its final moments.
"It is a consolation prize," Laviolette said. "We said we wanted to
win a championship, we said we wanted to win a Stanley Cup from the
first day we met."
Kip Miller got them within one at 4:23 of the third when he ripped a
shot high over Curtis Joseph's catching glove.
Then the Isles had plenty of chances, the best by Alexei Yashin, who
from behind the net saw a puck he banked off the back of Joseph's
head dance wide of the goal with under 10 minutes to play. Trent
Hunter made a great toe-drag move in front of the cage, but again,
there was Joseph, who finished with 31 saves.
Yashin, who Laviolette called "our best player," finished with one
goal on five shots, creating so many more opportunities for teammates
that never got past Cujo.
On the other end, Osgood was beaten by Gary Roberts on a crash goal
early in the first, and then saw Alex Mogilny bury his first of two,
including the empty-net killer with 40 seconds to play. Travis Green
whistled in their third at 13:48 of the second before the Isles awoke
from their cages and finally made a game of it.
"I'd like to play them again," Laviolette said.
And so would the rest of his team.